We do a lot of reading from day to day. Sometimes this can be of great reads: novels, university documents to the more mundane reading requirements of living in the world. Perhaps a few newspaper articles, headlines in newspapers, some posts in Social Media possibly. How often is this reading for work? For studies? For preparation for projects in industry? I wonder how much is consumed in reading for pleasure as opposed to work?
I usually have a book on the side being read in a quiet moment, or longer when I have my day off. There is plenty I have a desire to read, if I could find the time. Perhaps others of you are in the same dilemma. If only I had the time, I could get to that stack of reading… Just as important is what we are reading. So often we become the consumers of what has been pushed at us by book sellers or shops. What is it then that we should read? That will, of course, depend on personal taste in subject matter and author. We all have favourites. We read everything from good literature or how-to books to biographies. Haruki Murakami, author from Japan said “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
So then rather than simply follow the winds of taste in our current world, we should step out on our own to seek out and read books that will be for us a help in our faith. Our intake of thoughts from books is important to our general well being. Books can inform, they can challenge, they are provoking at times. Writers will want to have an influence, or perhaps simply provide for reading pleasure – good in itself. But what we need to do is be prudent in our reading materials. We need to have wisdom in discerning what we pick up, what we put before our eyes and mind. Just as our physical health cannot long be made to suffer before we become ill. So too our spiritual health, if poorly fed it leads to ill health spiritually.
We should take time to read the great spiritual books of our faith, perhaps those by St Theresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and so many others. But also the lesser books that are for simple reading pleasure, or the internet sites we read, blog posts or Social Media posts all have a great influence on our thinking and spiritual being. We need prudence and discernment. Be wise, be virtuous. Make the precious time given over to reading to be the greatest time spent in developing our spiritual lives, not deterring it.